Belle Isle Moonshine

Distilled from good times and 100% organic corn.

Behind the Bar

Behind the Bar: Marvin Allen // Carousel Bar & Lounge

Behind the BarBICS AdminComment
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Though every bar that we feature in our "Behind the Bar" series is amazing and special in its own way, it's rare that we come across an establishment that is truly one of a kind. It's also rare that we get to chat with a bartender who has more than two decades of expertise and has authored his own cocktail book, but we checked both off our list in America's Cocktail Capital -- New Orleans. Nestled in the heart of the beautiful, frenetic French Quarter, the historic Carousel Bar & Lounge at the Hotel Monteleone and its bar manager, Marvin Allen, provide patrons with excellent cocktails, award-winning service, and exceptional ambiance   -- all while slowly spinning. We spoke with Marvin about his time in the industry, his top bartending tips, and his deceptively boozy creation, the Belle Isle Refresher

TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF…

I'm Marvin Allen, Head Bartender of Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans. I have been bartending for about 25 years, and have been at the Carousel for 16 of those years.

What first got you Behind the Bar?

My original career choice was restaurant management, but after my last management position I was burned out.  I then made the choice to bartend temporarily and return to management after about a year. Once I discovered how much fun I was having bartending, I decided to make it a career. This was also around the time that the modern cocktail revolution was beginning. I developed a passion for bartending and creating cocktails.

Any pro-tips for someone starting out behind the bar?

Keep a positive attitude at all times.  Don't let the little things get to you. Keep on educating yourself.  Keep up on new trends and products.

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What's your favorite drink made by someone else?

My favorite cocktail made by someone else is the Sazerac.  Even though I make a great one, it's fun to have one made by someone else.

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Favorite drink that you make?

The Pisco Sour is the national cocktail of Peru, and Pisco itself is a spirit distilled from grapes that almost became extinct due to political unrest in Peru and the lack of knowledge in the United States.  The Pisco Sour was created by Victor Vaughen Morris in the early 1920's in Lima, Peru. It is made with fresh lime juice, egg white, simple syrup, and Pisco. It's a very light and refreshing cocktail.

Favorite thing to drink when no one’s looking?

A frozen ice cream cocktail.

 

If you had to pick one cocktail ingredient to use for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

The one cocktail ingredient that is could not live without is good Scotch whisky.

What’s your favorite part about working at Carousel Bar?

My favorite part of working in the Carousel would be the interacting of the different types of people, their cultures, and where they come from.  The Carousel has become a destination bar, and it's great fun to educate our guests on the different cocktails of the city and have them experience a cocktail they may not get in their hometown. They also want the recipes so they can return home and recreate the cocktails.

Where do you like to stop in for a drink?

I like to stop for a cocktail anywhere I can sit outside and enjoy the peace and quiet.

What’s your take on today’s cocktail culture in New Orleans?

It's great, as we have everything from well-made cocktails to Hand Grenades, Hurricanes and Frozen Daiquiris. The return of the classic cocktails has been great, especially since the beginning of Tales of the Cocktail* which brought the classics back to life.

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Give us your golden rule when it comes to bar etiquette.

Always use a jigger when preparing cocktails, because it will make a great cocktail and will always be consistent.  One other thing to remember is the guest that comes in and orders a beer may come back and order one of the classics. Or, if you talk to that guest you may be able to suggest a cocktail, as he may not be educated or have the confidence to order something unknown to him.

What’s your favorite way to drink Belle Isle?

Favorite way to drink Belle Isle is on the rocks.


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BELLE ISLE REFRESHER

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ oz. Belle Isle Cold Brew Coffee
  • ¼ oz. Frangelico
  • 3-4 drops   Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters
  • ¼ oz. Simple Syrup
  • 3-4 oz. Half and Half
  • Garnish with coffee beans and chocolate syrup

Preparation:

Drizzle the chocolate syrup in a chilled martini glass. Combine the rest of the ingredients in an ice-filled Boston Shaker and shake until well chilled and frothy.  Strain into the chocolate syrup lined glass and top with three coffee beans and a dash of fresh grated nutmeg. Sit back and enjoy.  Tastes like a piece of the Italian pick me up, Tiramisou Cake!

Recipe by Marvin Allen.

All photos by Joey Wharton

 

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*The Belle Isle Team is so excited to be a part of this year's Tales of the Cocktail!

Join us for Distillé des Bons Temps - a poolside moonshine tasting and cocktail party at the Hotel Monteleone on Tuesday, July 17th! Bring your swimmies!


Cocktails on the brain?


Belle Isle Moonshine is a premium, handcrafted spirit proudly hailing from Richmond, Virginia.

We take the name Belle Isle from a small, 540-acre island located smack dab in the middle of the James River where Civil War soldiers used surplus corn rations to make moonshine in copper kettles.

Belle Isle Moonshine is distilled from 100% organic corn, grown by three family farms and responsibly sourced. Once triple-distilled, we charcoal filter Belle Isle four times over. Then, we cut it with purified water right from the James River. Our infusions are made with 100% real ingredients, never artificial flavors or color. We use real grapefruits sourced from Texas and California, local honey from the Shenandoah Valley, organic habaneros grown an hour away, and freshly roasted coffee beans from the most socially conscious roastery in Richmond, Blanchard's Coffee Roasting Co.

From there, each bottle of Belle Isle Moonshine is filled, corked, labeled, and packed by hand by our Production team, who check each bottle and batch for quality assurance. Since Belle Isle is made in small batches, you can find the batch number handwritten in the bottom right corner of each bottle.

Distilled from good times and 100% organic corn.

wanna hear more of our story?

Behind the Bar: Kimber Weissert // Butcher and the Rye

Behind the BarBICS AdminComment
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Smack dab in the middle of downtown Pittsburgh, Butcher and the Rye is serving up some of the best food Steel City has to offer.  Its two-time James Beard Semifinalist bar program (and its mind-boggling wall of nearly 700 whiskeys) is just as outstanding. We chatted with Kimber Weissert, the restaurant's Beverage Director, about her bartending philosophy, her drinking habits, and Pittsburgh's burgeoning cocktail scene. She'll also share her recipe for the dangerously delicious Pomelo en Fuego

TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF…

I'm Kimber Weissert, Beverage Director for Butcher and the Rye, täkō, and Pork & Beans in Pittsburgh. 

How long have you been bartending?

I have been at Butcher and the Rye for a bit over a year and a half, and I have been bartending a little over 10 years.

What first got you Behind the Bar?

I was working in Cleveland, Ohio, as a talent buyer for a concert venue called Peabody’s. I’d always been interested in learning to bartend and told them I would love to help out sometime. My first night behind the bar happened quickly. About an hour before a sold out show, they taught me to make a Long Island, a Lake Erie (house shot), and a Washington Apple…and told me good luck. It was an insane night that somehow made me fall in love with the bar business.  I’ve come a long way since then.

Any pro-tips for someone starting out behind the bar?

Keep your eyes and ears open.  Learn from your fellow bartenders, and read! If you want to be a career bartender, continued learning is key. I learned so much on the job from other bartenders I worked with over the years, and some of them truly helped make me the bartender I am today.

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What's your favorite drink made by someone else?

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This is such a hard one! I’ll have to say a well-made Manhattan is one of my favorite drinks to get from a fellow bartender. It shows me their chops!

Favorite drink that you make?

I don’t have a favorite drink to make. I like making any drink that is going to make someone smile and enjoy.

 

Favorite thing to drink when no one’s looking?

No guilty pleasures…I drink what I drink with no shame. Give me a PBR and a shot of Old Grand-Dad and I am a happy woman.

 

If you had to pick one cocktail ingredient to use for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

Whiskey – because there are so many options!

 

What’s your favorite part about working at Butcher and the Rye?

My favorite thing about working at Butcher and the Rye is my coworkers – they kick ass, plain and simple. We work hard, we have fun, we get mad at each other, but at the end of the night these are the people I see more than my family…and really are my second family. I love them!

Where do you like to stop in for a drink?

One of my favorite places to go to is Hidden Harbor. I am a sucker for an awesome Tiki drink, and they do it so well!

What’s your take on today’s cocktail culture in Pittsburgh?

I think Pittsburgh has an amazing cocktail culture. There are many great mainstay bars and many more opening. We have great talent and an awesome, supportive community. We have a lot of creative bartenders that are starting to get some recognition in the cocktail world and I think you’re going to hear a lot more about the cocktail scene here in Pittsburgh over the next few years.

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Give us your golden rule when it comes to bar etiquette.

The golden rule for bartenders is to treat every guest like they are a guest in your home.

My philosophy behind the bar is simple. Make it fun! Guests should always feel welcome and never intimidated at the bar. When you work in front of a wall of almost 700 whiskies, which I do, the choices in front of someone new can be overwhelming. My goal is to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable to order what they enjoy, whether it be an awesome whiskey, a cosmo, or maybe even a Pomelo En Fuego. A night out for drinks should be fun!

 

What’s your favorite way to drink Belle Isle?

A shot of the Cold Brew Coffee moonshine all by itself…it’s so good!


 

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Pomelo En Fuego

Ingredients:

  •  1 ½ oz. Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit
  •  ½  oz. Belle Isle Honey Habanero
  •  ½  oz. Agave
  •  ¾ oz. Lime Juice
  •  4 dashes Bittermen’s Hellfire Shrub
  •  1 inch piece of cucumber cut into smaller pieces to muddle

Preparation:

Add agave, lime, and cucumber to shaker.  Muddle Cucumber. Add remaining ingredients and ice. Shake and double strain into prepared rocks glass with a ribbon of cucumber spiraled along inside of glass and ice.  Garnish with pickled habanero.

 

Recipe by Kimber Weissert.

All photos by Joey Wharton


Need more cocktail inspo?


Belle Isle Moonshine is a premium, handcrafted spirit proudly hailing from Richmond, Virginia.

We take the name Belle Isle from a small, 540-acre island located smack dab in the middle of the James River where Civil War soldiers used surplus corn rations to make moonshine in copper kettles.

Belle Isle Moonshine is distilled from 100% organic corn, grown by three family farms and responsibly sourced. Once triple-distilled, we charcoal filter Belle Isle four times over. Then, we cut it with purified water right from the James River. Our infusions are made with 100% real ingredients, never artificial flavors or color. We use real grapefruits sourced from Texas and California, local honey from the Shenandoah Valley, organic habaneros grown an hour away, and freshly roasted coffee beans from the most socially conscious roastery in Richmond, Blanchard's Coffee Roasting Co.

From there, each bottle of Belle Isle Moonshine is filled, corked, labeled, and packed by hand by our Production team, who check each bottle and batch for quality assurance. Since Belle Isle is made in small batches, you can find the batch number handwritten in the bottom right corner of each bottle.

Distilled from good times and 100% organic corn.

Wanna hear more of our story?

Behind the Bar: Caitlin Patterson // Wahoo! Grill

Behind the BarStephanie StantonComment

Throughout Belle Isle's three years of taking you Behind the Bar, we've showcased some of the best cocktail crafters, shot slingers, and bar personalities Virginia has to offer. Now that we're expanding our reach, we wanted to offer a glimpse into the bar scenes of our new markets. First up - Atlanta!

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Tucked away in Decatur, Georgia, right outside the hustle and bustle of Atlanta, is Wahoo! Grill, a beautiful neighborhood bistro surrounded by its own private garden and outdoor dining space. But beyond the amazing ambience and tasty food, Wahoo! Grill also offers an exquisite cocktail program that has something for every kind of drinker. Last month, we sat down with Caitlin Patterson, a bartender over at Wahoo! to learn more about the magic she mixes up behind the bar and taste her new, extremely refreshing Belle Isle cocktail.

TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF…

I'm Caitlin Patterson, a bartender at Wahoo! Grill.  

How long have you been bartending? What first got you behind the bar?

2 ½ years. I have always glamorized bartenders, so when the bar management team at Wahoo! offered to train me for an open position, I was all for it. I thought even if it didn't work out, I would gain drink and wine knowledge. I had been serving at the restaurant for a year, so I had the basics steps of service and food knowledge down.

I love people, drinks, and doing multiple things at once! After a handful of terrible shifts, it all clicked. I took a mental step back, looked at the entire bar and restaurant, as well as everyone's needs as a whole. Then I wanted to educate myself on cocktail history, winemaking, and how to better my bar service. The two bar managers had totally different styles of bartending, which really made me realize my strengths and weaknesses and how to make the shift my own.

What's one pro-tip for someone starting out behind the bar?

Come in with a good attitude, and be mindful of your guests. Learn to read them. Realize not everyone is at the bar for the same purpose, and you need to provide for those needs. Be one step ahead, and set yourself up to succeed confidently. And bring the hustle!

 

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What's your favorite drink made by someone else?

My bar manager, Reggie, made a drink called "Monkey Bite" after she was literally bitten by a monkey on a vacation. It was muddled sage, blueberries, lime, agave and juniper berry-infused mezcal! So delicious. 

Favorite drink that you make?

Definitely a tie between a few. Most of my drinks are created from one thought - sometimes not even a drink ingredient, but a name or a theme. This past October I came up with a drink based on edible glitter. "Black Magic" became a Halloween cocktail with black vodka, raspberry liquor, sour, edible glitter and apple syrup. After shaking and straining the glitter whirled around in the glass and was so fun.

My second favorite would be "Ray Kinsella," a drink that made our winter drink list, made with gin, lemon, cardamom, rosemary-infused agave, and aquafaba. Aquafaba is the juice and water from a can of chickpeas. It has the same foam effect as egg whites, but is so much easier to work with.

Favorite thing to drink when no one’s looking?

I love bringing layered Jell-O shots to parties, holidays, and friends' houses on that random Tuesday. I don't care how old you are - they are fun and festive!

 Caitlin's creation: Tropic Thunder. 

Caitlin's creation: Tropic Thunder. 

If you had to pick one cocktail ingredient to use for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

Honey, as is and infused.

Tell us about Wahoo! Grill.

The guests that come to Wahoo! really make the bar. We have so many regulars that the bar team knows on such an elevated level. It's amazing. But Wahoo! is also a wedding venue and large party event space, so we are constantly having people from all over the country gather here for weddings, baby showers, birthday parties, and business meetings. I have gotten to meet so many different people from all walks of life.

Where do you like to stop in for a drink?

Poor Hendrix is a new neighborhood bar that is beautiful inside and out -  and there are so many cute dogs on the patio all the time! My favorite drink they created is called "Cowboy Butts Drive Me Nuts" - it's hazelnut liqueur, Cynar, High West Double Rye, and a few secrets.

What’s your take on today’s cocktail culture? What about the Atlanta scene makes it special?

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Some people do not think this is a respected professional occupation, which can be frustrating when you have a passion and drive for it. There are also so many types of bars, bartenders, and visions of the same drink, and none of them are right or wrong.

In 2012, I took a break from college and worked in four different National Parks in four years. I got to experience all corners and crevasses of the United States, as well as the bars. From saloon to tavern, pub or club, a sense of community and history is what ATL brings to the bar scene. 

 

Give us your golden rule when it comes to bar etiquette.

Please, please, please have a good attitude! I know we have a hard job, but you are the one setting the mood for yourself, the shift, and the experience your guests have.

What’s your favorite way to drink Belle Isle?

Honey Habanero Mule with lime! Any day, any season.

 


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Tropic Thunder

Ingredients:

Preparation:

Combine and shake all ingredients over shaved ice in stemless goblet.

 

All Photos by Kate Magee.

 

Want to go behind more bars?


Belle Isle Moonshine is a premium, handcrafted spirit proudly hailing from Richmond, Virginia.

We take the name Belle Isle from a small, 540-acre island located smack dab in the middle of the James River where Civil War soldiers used surplus corn rations to make moonshine in copper kettles.

Belle Isle Moonshine is distilled from 100% organic corn, grown by three family farms and responsibly sourced. Once triple-distilled, we charcoal filter Belle Isle four times over. Then, we cut it with purified water right from the James River. Our infusions are made with 100% real ingredients, never artificial flavors or color. We use real grapefruits sourced from Texas and California, local honey from the Shenandoah Valley, organic habaneros grown an hour away, and freshly roasted coffee beans from the most socially conscious roastery in Richmond, Blanchard's Coffee Roasting Co.

From there, each bottle of Belle Isle Moonshine is filled, corked, labeled, and packed by hand by our Production team, who check each bottle and batch for quality assurance. Since Belle Isle is made in small batches, you can find the batch number handwritten in the bottom right corner of each bottle.

Distilled from good times and 100% organic corn.

Wanna learn more about us?

Behind the Bar: Chad Painter // Wonderland

Behind the BarBrandon Day3 Comments
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In our line of work, we cross paths with a wide range of bartenders and walk into an equally diverse range of bars. While no two bars are truly the same, there are some that tend to stand out. Maybe it's because Halloween is right around the corner, but one spot tucked away in the historic Shockoe Bottom neighborhood in Richmond, VA comes to mind. We stopped by and visited our good friend Chad Painter at Wonderland for a peek into the rabbit hole and to hear how this iconic spot came into existence.

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First thing’s first, who are you?
Chad Painter, and I am Overlord here at Wonderland.

How long have you been bartending?
Probably close to 15 years now. I’ve been in the industry for about 20 years though.

What first got you behind the bar?
I’m a Richmond native and I’ve pretty much always been in Shockoe Bottom - I started out at a place that was across the street from where we are now. It started with me working the door at a bar, then became the back bar guy, then front bar guy, booked the bands that came through, and after I figured all of that out, I decided to just do it on my own.

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Any pro-tips for someone starting out behind the bar?
People tell me they want to learn to be a bartender so they’re going to go to bartending school or whatever. Here’s my thing: you can send a monkey into space if you teach it to push the same buttons over and over again. Same thing with bartending - you can go to bartending school and learn to make whatever stupid drinks people are freaking out over today. Doesn’t mean you’re going to be a good bartender or, at the end of the day, even enjoy doing it.

Realistically it comes down to maybe 10-20% drink knowledge and the rest is just personality. It’s about knowing how to talk to people and interact. Now I’m not saying you should stand there and bullshit people, but you’re never going to know everything there is to know about making drinks. So why worry about it? Spend more time getting good at bringing people together and showing folks a good time, and the rest will come naturally.

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Favorite drink made by someone else?
It’s hard getting out to go places but when I get the chance, it’s more about getting to see specific people than to drink a specific cocktail. I’ll stop by to see everyone at Banditos or head over and see Beau when he’s bartending. A lot of these are folks that I’ve watched over the years and who have taught my how to “hone my craft” in one way or another.

Favorite drink that you make?
We don’t do the standard thing here at our bar. I don’t make up names for drinks, I don’t do a set cocktail menu, and so on. It’s different here. We ask what people like, what they don’t like, and from there we work something out. It’s more interactive and forces you to keep flexing that creative muscle. The staff will test out drink ideas on each other beforehand. Our “Bar Experiment” nights have taken a weird turn a few times...

What is the weirdest concoction that you guys have whipped up during your “experiments”?
We’ve made some wicked drinks before, so it’s hard to choose. Sometimes we’ll just push each other to come up with the nastiest drink we can think of, but most of the time it’s all on accident. One experiment that we thought might end up tasting decent but ended up being vile was, and I’m sorry to say, a combo of Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit and Belle Isle Cold Brew Coffee. Separately, they are amazing. Together, not so great… It’s my new favorite thing to offer people when they ask for a free shot because it’s their birthday.

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What’s your favorite part about working at your bar?
It’s meeting new people, which is both the best and worst part of the job. You get to know people from all over the world and from different walks of life. We’ve had people walk in here that have heard from friends of friends or just searched for bars on the internet. It’s a lot of word of mouth and that brings in everybody from homeless people to CEOs and directors of whatever boards. I don’t care who you are or where you’re from or what you do, it’s all about just being here and having a good time. That motto works for me and has worked for the past 13 years now here at Wonderland.

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What’s your take on today’s cocktail culture?
I like when people give me the freedom and trust me enough to make something up for them. I’d say 95% of the time, it works out. And the other 5% is just a learning opportunity. The whole “craft cocktail” movement is cool, but it’s a pain in the ass to me. As a casual drinker, I don’t need every drink to be a spectacle. Some of the extracurriculars that go into some of the drinks I see are hysterical. Lots of respect to those that do it and keep the craft movement going. We’re a “beer and a shot” bar though, so it’s just a different mentality.

With the rise in craft cocktail spots, are “beer and a shot” places like Wonderland harder to come by?
We’ve always stuck with our original idea for Wonderland, so that’s why we remain who we are. Back in the day, especially in Shockoe Bottom, places had their shtick and stuck to it. You could walk down the strip and go into the jazz club, then pop next door into the disco club, stop by the Irish pub, go to the punk bar, and so on. These places weren’t labeled that way, but over time built up a reputation and as a result, there was a greater diversity of the types of bars you could walk into on any given night. With the craft cocktail movement coming back, a lot of places think that they should hop on the trend and do that too. So you see places conforming to that style and they all start to look the same, so now places like Wonderland seem special.

Wonderland has a very specific atmosphere to it. How did all of this come together?
I had a very clear vision for the place from the start, but it was definitely a snowball effect. The horror vibe is great because it’s all stuff I love and it helps keep out the riff raff of people who would be tempted to come in here and act like an idiot. Less and less places are confident enough to stick to what they know, and I don’t blame them. But sticking to my guns has made Wonderland what it is. We still have changed over the years, even if it’s all still within the same vibe that we started with. Like recently I’ve put up a lot more clown stuff since that seems to be freaking people out more. Clowns are fun and creepy - what’s not to love?

Give us your golden rule when it comes to bar etiquette.
Have respect for yourself and the people you are interacting with. You don’t have to show them love and whatever else, but respect them. You never know what kind of day someone has had and chances are that if they are sitting at the bar, it was probably a shitty one. I just follow the age-old saying: Treat people the way you want to be treated.

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Some lucky patrons of Wonderland get the pleasure of snapping a "bathroom selfie" with you every now and then. How did that start?
I don’t even remember how it started. It’s just a thing you do now. When bands come through or random people visiting come by, we make them do it. It’s pointless and stupid to crowd a bunch of people into a tiny bathroom just for a picture, but it’s funny and people love it. I think there’s like 300-400 up on the Instagram hashtag now.

Halloween isn't the only holiday around the corner. I know you're a part of a cool program in town called Punks for Presents. Tell us a little bit about that!
Punks for Presents started 13 years ago during the holiday season. A bunch of people get together and we make cover bands, write covers of songs and add holiday stuff to it, then put on a series of shows all around town. It’s all volunteer work and all of the money we get goes straight to buying presents for kids. Each year we work with a different charity, so this year all of the proceeds are going to buying presents for kids at the Children’s Hospital at MCV. We run the shows, get together at the end, and go shopping for the toys, then take the presents over to the kids. It’s a great cause and one of those things where you know for sure that all of the money or support you are putting into it will directly benefit the kids. None of us are walking out with a check or getting anything out of it.

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What's your favorite way to sip Belle Isle?
I'm a big fan of Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit - it’s the shit. It’s perfect any time of the year, it’s light and crisp and fresh. And I’m not just saying that because you’re sitting here interviewing me. We make a tasty citrus drink with Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit and Belle Isle Honey Habanero.

Preparation:

Combine ingredients with ice, shake, and pour into a pint glass. Garnish with a lime wedge or a mint sprig.

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz. Belle Isle Honey Habanero
  • 1 oz. Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit
  • 3/4 oz. sour mix
  • ¼ oz. orange juice
  • Splash of lime juice
  • Dehydrated mint

Photos by Joey Wharton

Behind the Bar: Josh Seaburg // The Main

Behind the BarBrandon DayComment
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Hotel bars have always been a staple when it comes to American drinking culture. As a meeting point for area locals and visitors to the community, they have served as a hub for a wide array of social interactions. And what better place to perfect the art of social lubrication à la craft cocktail creations than there? While there might be a large variation in the kind and quality of hotel bar programs, one spot in particular has risen to the top.

This is what leads us to the doorway of Hilton Norfolk - The Main, where we met up with Chief Mixologist Josh Seaburg to learn a little bit about how his work and experience has managed to reshape the Tidewater region's notions of hotel bars and elevate Virginia-made spirits like Belle Isle Moonshine within his cocktail program. 

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First thing’s first, who are you?
Josh Seaburg, Chief Mixologist for Hilton Norfolk - The Main.

How long have you been bartending?
I’ve been involved with the program here since day 0, I’ve been bartending for 6 years, in the industry for 11.

What first got you behind the bar?
I was a server from the ages of 16 to 21, so as soon as I had an opportunity to do something different, I took it. I started out working at a tequila bar at the oceanfront, and falling in love with Agave spirits kept me behind the bar long term.

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Any pro-tips for someone starting out behind the bar?
Learn and master guest service and basic cocktails before you start worrying about making your own bitters, or foraging for wild mushrooms for your dope infusion.

Favorite drink made by someone else?
Maggie Tsouris at Voila here in Norfolk makes the best Aviation I’ve ever had. They’ve been my downfall more than a couple of times.

Favorite drink that you make?
An awesome Pina Colada. It’s to the point now where I’ll occasionally get asked to bring my blender to parties to make them, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

Favorite thing to drink when no one’s looking?
Once in a great while, I’ll make a very time-consuming, ceremonial martini at home, in a wacky ratio of 3.7 to 1. I wind up measuring it with a scale. It’s just so over-the-top and I’m so picky about it that I would only ever do something like that in the privacy of my own home.

If you had to pick one cocktail ingredient to use for the rest of your life, what would you choose
Agave spirits. Tequila and Mezcal are two things I couldn’t live without.

What’s your favorite part about working at your bar?
I like the transient nature of working in a hotel bar. We have our beloved regulars, but the majority of our guest base is only in town for a little while. It’s exciting to turn them on to the fact that there’s a growing cocktail scene in the area, and provide a memorable experience.

Where do you like to stop in for a drink?
I love the atmosphere at Shiptown, a clean-cooking seafood restaurant. It’s super close to my house, the food is amazing, they’re oysters are top notch, and they make a mean martini.

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What’s your take on today’s cocktail culture?
On the whole, I’m just really excited that more and more bartenders are understanding that making good drinks is just one part to the equation. Locally, I’m seeing more and more bartenders develop interest in maintaining cost percentages, and taking note of the business side of things, and that’s a must for anyone who wants to advance into management or ownership.

Give us your golden rule when it comes to bar etiquette.
For bartenders, don’t get hung up on what your guest is drinking; it’s such a small part of the equation. Good regulars don’t just walk in and start ordering cool cocktails without developing a relationship, and that’s based much more on service and personality than it is on selling them a craft cocktail when they ordered a vodka cranberry.  

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What’s your favorite way to drink Belle Isle?
Cold Brew Shots! That, and I really enjoy using the Honey Habanero in a Penicillin variation. The spicy and sweetness play with ginger really nicely.

Why did you want to highlight this cocktail for Virginia Spirits Month?
I like to share cocktails that are quick and easy to do at home. Getting guests excited to go home and recreate something they had at my bar is one of the more rewarding aspects of the job for me.

Preparation:

Combine all ingredients in a tin; add ice, and shake. Strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass, garnish with candied ginger.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Belle Isle Honey Habanero
  • ¾ oz. fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ oz. ginger syrup*
  • 6 drops Bittermen’s Buckspice Bitters

*Ginger syrup recipe: equal parts sugar, ginger, and hot water by weight, blended and strained

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Behind the Bar: Brandice Courtney // Supper Southern Morsels

Behind the BarBrandon DayComment
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Contrary to popular opinion, we believe that one of the best times to party on a rooftop is at the end of summer, just as the weather starts to cool down. It looks like that season has finally arrived, and just in time to celebrate Virginia Spirits Month too!

That's why we decided to stop by one of our favorite rooftop bars, Supper Southern Morsels in Norfolk, VA to visit our friend and Bar Manager Brandice Courtney. Not only did she give us some great insight to her bar beliefs and background, she also hooked us up with their new Belle Isle cocktail on tap. And in case you were wondering, yes - it was perfect!

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First thing’s first, who are you?
I'm Brandice Courtney and I'm the Bar Manager, Wine Coordinator, and FOH Manager at Supper Southern Morsels.

That's quite the lineup! How long have you been bartending?
Just over a year now here at Supper. I have been bartending for 3 years total, but this is definitely the first "craft" - and non-speed-bar - restaurant I've ever been a part of.  The first few months were overwhelming, as my bar trainers pushed me hard and we are slammed in the summertime, especially with our rooftop bar.

So what first got you behind the bar?
Sometimes my ability to catch on quickly and perseverance for taking on any challenge in my sight takes me unexpected places, and that's basically how I ended up behind the bar. And that same trait is what took me from bartending to managing. I'm proud of the skillset that has gotten me this far. As a lot of people can attest, the flow of a restaurant is not exactly for everyone.

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Any pro-tips for someone starting out behind the bar?
Don't be afraid to get rough with the utensils. In training new bartenders, I just want them to get down and dirty with slinging bottles and not be afraid to bruise mint with a hard hand-clap and vigorously dash some bitters. Also, I'm always telling bartenders: TASTE EVERYTHING. You should always know what you're handing someone.

Beyond that, it's all about your mentality. I try to instill in my peers the general rule that the guest is your number one priority. In this business, I think it's easy to get caught up in making sure you are fast and forget the body in the bar stool is a person and not just a tip. You can go a whole shift just getting by, or you can walk away knowing you made someone smile, you gave someone the most unique Manhattan they've ever had, etc. Just be a good person. 

Favorite drink made by someone else?
My old colleague Patrick introduced me to a Manhattan with Carpano Antica and black walnut bitters. It's my go-to in the chilly months.

Favorite drink that you make?
Honestly, tequila needs more love and attention y"all! Here's my go-to: 2 oz. blanco tequila, 1.5 oz. lime juice, 0.5 oz. agave, and a muddled fresno pepper slice, shaken hard and strained. So refreshing.

Favorite thing to drink when no one’s looking?
A nice Grenache-based rosé.

If you had to pick one cocktail ingredient to use for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
Bulleit Bourbon 10-year.

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What’s your favorite part about working at your bar?
The immense freedom in what we can bring into our bar - fruit, bitters, spirits, herbs (we grow our own mint, rosemary, basil, dill) and the tools we have - CO2 infusing siphons, immersion blenders, cocktail smoker, etc. As if a bartender and a scientist collaborated, we have our own laboratory. 

Where do you like to stop in for a drink?
My couch? Just kidding... I really love our sister restaurant, Public House!  Dark-lit, smoking and pool room, arcade machines (GALAGA!) and a couple of the most impressively knowledgeable bartenders I have the privilege to be acquainted with. 

What’s your take on today’s cocktail culture?
I'm happy to see food culture's farm-to-table prevalence seeping into cocktail culture. The more ingredients at hand, the better. Again, tequila! It's making a comeback in the craft cocktail scene, as it is more versatile than most perceive it to be. I will say, canned and bottled cocktails always have and always will irk me. I'm old-school and love the building of a cocktail upon request. 

What’s your take on today’s cocktail culture?

I'm happy to see food culture's farm-to-table prevalence seeping into cocktail culture. The more ingredients at hand, the better.
I will say, canned and bottled cocktails always have and always will irk me. I'm old-school and love the building of a cocktail upon request. 
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Give us your golden rule when it comes to bar etiquette.
For bartenders: Practice, taste, practice, taste, SLEEP!
For guests: "I want something fun," is not a cocktail.  I'm just sayin'...

What’s your favorite way to drink Belle Isle?
My forte is floral and herbal. The Belle Isle Black Label seems to especially open up floral flavors and balances well with the spice of Fentiman's ginger beer. I also really love the combination or rosemary and citrus in our Belle Isle cocktail on tap.

Preparation:

Combine ingredients in a tin with ice, shake, then strain into a glass over fresh ice. Garnish with rosemary sprig.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ oz. Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit
  • ¾ oz. spiced orange syrup
  • splash of pomegranate juice
  • sprig of rosemary
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Behind the Bar: MaryEllen Fournier // The Public House

Behind the BarBrandon DayComment
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This summer, we launched one of our most exciting projects yet - Belle Isle draft cocktails. Yes, you read that right. Tasty, thirst-quenching cocktails available on tap at your favorite bars. For this next feature in our Behind the Bar series, we figured it was time to stop by The Public House in Norfolk, VA, the first bar ever to bring on a Belle Isle draft cocktail. We sat down at the bar across from MaryEllen, the General Manager at The Public House, to hear more about her story and what gives The Public House its mojo - and to try their cocktail on tap!

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First thing’s first, who are you?
I'm MaryEllen Fournier and I am the General Manager/Employee Wrangler at The Public House in Norfolk, VA.

How long have you been bartending?
4 years at Pub and about 9 years total.

What first got you behind the bar?
I was drawn to the atmosphere. I love talking to all different types of people and the fast-paced environment behind the bar makes time fly. There is always something to do and you’re always moving. Perfect fit for me.

Any pro-tips for someone starting out behind the bar?
Always present yourself with a smile, greet your customers with eye contact, and provide great service even when you are crazy busy. It goes a long way.

Favorite drink to have?
I’m a beer and a shot kind of girl.

Favorite drink to make?
Hendricks and soda, with a splash of elderflower tonic.

Favorite thing to drink when no one’s looking?
A tiki drink with coconut and a silly drink umbrella garnish.

Pick one cocktail ingredient to use for the rest of your life.
I love muddled cucumber and basil in just about anything.

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Favorite part about working at The Public House?
Pub offers two separate personalities: our more formal, restaurant-style approach up front, and a casual smoking lounge with pool tables and arcade games in the back. Our charm is in our versatility. We’re a full service cocktail bar, a well stocked beer bar, and the neighborhood “Cheers”.

Where do you stop in for a drink?
A: Anywhere quiet and low-key. 

What’s your take on today’s cocktail culture?
Today’s cocktail culture has gotten a little oversaturated with complicated takes on classic cocktails. I think it’s time to go back to the basics.

Give us your golden rule when it comes to bar etiquette.
Leave your ego at the door.

What’s your favorite way to drink Belle Isle?
I'll pick up Belle Isle Cold Brew Coffee and mix it up. Perfect at the end of the night when you want that coffee taste and a great buzz.

Preparation:

  1. Pour Belle Isle, Kahlua, Amaretto, and cold brew in shaker tin and toss from tin to tin.
  2. Pour tossed ingredients over ice in a chilled pint glass.
  3. Shake Baileys and heavy cream in a chilled tin and float on top.
  4. Garnish with fresh mint.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Belle Isle Cold Brew Coffee
  • 1 oz. Kahlua
  • ¼ oz. Amaretto
  • ¼ oz. Baileys
  • Splash of heavy cream
  • Cold brew coffee of your choice
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    How to make it The Public House-style (on tap):

    In a soda keg, combine and shake:

    • 4 bottles Belle Isle Cold Brew Coffee
    • 1 bottle Kahlua
    • 1 bottle Amaretto
    • 4 bottles cold brew coffee concentrate

    Pull cocktail from tap over ice in a pint glass. Shake Baileys and heavy cream in a chilled tin, then float on top of the cocktail. Garnish with fresh mint.

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    Behind the Bar: Stefan Bachvarov // Le District

    Behind the BarBrandon DayComment

    Right in the heart of the Financial District is the last place you'd expect to find one of the most serene spots in Manhattan, yet that's exactly where Le District lies tucked away. Complete with cafes, fresh markets, upscale dining experiences, and an impeccable bar, Le District is a one-stop shop for quality French-inspired fare.

    We stepped away from the hustle and bustle of the city to sit down with Stefan Bachvarov of Le District's bar, appropriately named Le Bar, to learn how the surrounding market at Le District provides him the ingredients and inspiration to create his gorgeous and ingenious cocktails.

    How long have you been bartending?

    I've been bartending over 15 years now. It started out as just a summer job as a kid. That summer was so busy for us that I had to help work the service bar, and I fell in love!

    Favorite classic cocktail?

    Manhattan.

    Favorite part about working at Le District?

    I like learning something new every day thanks to all of the amazing people around our bar. I also love the diversity of our clientele.

    What makes your bar unique?

    At Le District, we have everything. From our Michelin star chef Nico Abello's incredible creations, to our coffee, our fresh fruit and vegetables we use, to our cocktails and wine - there is so much to work with and create. Being around like-minded people is so encouraging and creates a fantastic atmosphere.

    What cocktail do you hope people ask for?

    Something classic with some French inspiration, like Armagnac, Calvados, or Cognac, that we can pair with something like Belle Isle Moonshine to create a fun, new drink.

    Favorite cocktail to sip on when no one is looking?

    Honey Habanero Margarita! 

    Favorite menu item + cocktail pairing?

    Steak Tartare and Vieux Carre Nord.

    Can you share a Belle Isle creation with us?

    We always like to have a variation of a margarita on our cocktail menu. When we found Belle Isle Honey Habanero, we knew we had to use it! It's the perfect balance of sweet and spicy - helps you pass the day as you guzzle down some oysters!

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    Preparation:

    Shake all ingredients over ice, then strain and serve in a chilled coupe with freshlt cracked pepper on top.

    Ingredients:

    • ¾ oz. Belle Isle Honey Habanero
    • 1 ½ oz. Altos Olmeca Tequila
    • ½ oz. Cointreau
    • ¼ oz. Belfoir Ginger Syrup
    • ¾ oz. lime juice
    • ¾ oz. pineapple juice

    Recipe by Stefan Bachvarov of Le District | Photos by Matt Evans

    Behind the Bar: Alex + Lily // Green Pig Bistro

    Behind the BarBrandon Day2 Comments

    Being behind the bar sometimes feels like a love-hate relationship. You get to wake up much later than your 9-5 friends, but your work day ends closer 3am. You're able to help people unwind from stress, but have seen them take it too far. Like any good relationship, bartending takes balance.

    If anybody has perfected that balance, it has to be Alex and Lily. Not only are they able to run the bar at Green Pig Bistro with expertise and creativity, they have also learned to balance personal and professional. It's not often you see a husband and wife behind the bar together, so we stopped by to learn more about how they mix work & home just as successfully as they mix cocktails.

    Tell us about yourselves. 

    Alex: I'm Alex and I am the Bar Manager at Green Pig Bistro in Arlington, Virginia.

    Lily: I'm Lily, and I am a bartender at Green Pig Bistro. We've both been here at GPB for a little over a year now.

    Alex: And we happen to be married as well.

    When did you first get behind the bar?

    Alex: About 4 years ago, I started at a sushi place (SEI) in D.C. The training there was good, and being friends with the bartenders, they were kind enough to get me started. I was making everything from rum & Cokes to egg white lavender margaritas. 

    Lily: I started out young working at a Vietnamese sports bar, mainly pouring beer and wine. 

    What drinks do you like to make?

    Alex:  I enjoy to make a little bit of everything. New experiences matter to me. I'm constantly changing the cocktail menu because of seasonality, while trying to bring flavor from all around the world to taste new and different combinations. Personal guilty pleasure though, definitely a Cinnamon Pineapple Daiquiri. 

    Lily: These days, I finesse classic cocktails. I am an advocate for mojitos done right and anything tiki style that isn't overwhelmingly sweet.

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    What’s it like being both coworkers and spouses?

    Alex: It feels natural for us being both coworkers and spouses, because we make a pretty good team behind the bar.

    Lily: A big pro is that we can rely on each other. A con is that its hard for us to plan a long vacation, because we both work full time in the same place. Overall, we love each other's company and have a really good time working together. 

    Tell us about your bar.

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    Alex: Green Pig Bistro is a very warm and welcoming restaurant with an awesome bar. The cocktail program is inspired by the seasons, an appreciation of classic cocktails, as well as bartender creativity.  Giving bartenders a chance to place an original cocktail on the menu also helps with its diversity. 

    Lily: The vibe is local and cozy. I like to think I'm the inspiration for the cocktail program. 

    What’s the neighborhood like?

    Alex: Green Pig is located in Clarendon in Arlington, Virginia. It is a few blocks from the busy main street inhabited by chain food spots and various retail, which makes it a hidden gem amongst the neighborhood in Arlington. 

    Lily: The people that stop into our bar are folks who live really close by and people who know where to go to get a good cocktail in the area.

    Favorite part about your bar?

    Alex: The freedom of creativity. Working with fresh and different ingredients keeps me inspired. And not only do we have great drinks, but we have great food too.

    Lily: I love the quality of our cocktails. We take pride in using house-made ingredients in our cocktails, as well as juicing our citrus by hand daily.

    Favorite cocktail + menu item pairing?

    Alex: Fried Chicken Biscuits with the Smoking Old Fashioned. 

    Lily: This season, I like the Kiss of Mint on our menu. It's refreshing and not too sweet. It's a muddled mint margarita with fresh grapefruit juice and hopped bitters. I would pair that with our albacore sesame dish.

    What inspires your cocktails?

    Alex: I am inspired by my surroundings and local produce as well as trying to recreate flavors that I loved as a child, showing just a little bit of where I come from. I am also in love with a food documentary series on Netflix called Chef's Table

    Lily: I am inspired by whatever flavors I am interested in during the season. I tend to create cocktails that I would enjoy drinking.


    What are your Belle Isle cocktails?

    Alex: The inspiration for this cocktail came from a wine that kind of smelled like grapefruit and green bell pepper. I was trying to make the flavors work, but green bell pepper can be a little overwhelming. While randomly speaking with a fellow bartender Ben, he says, "Why don't you try red bell pepper instead?" Then it all came together. I like using ingredients that people don't normally see in drinks.

    Preparation:

    Shake all ingredients with ice and strain over a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with an orange peel for zest.

    Recipe by Alex of Green Pig Bistro

    Ingredients:

    • 2 oz. Red Bell Pepper-infused Belle Isle Premium Moonshine
    • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
    • 1/2 oz, honey simple
    • 2 dashes lemon bitters
    How to make Red Bell Pepper Infusion: Blend three large red bell peppers with a bottle of Belle Isle Premium Moonshine. Let sit for 24 hours, then strain through a cheesecloth.

    Lily: I am part Vietnamese, so my cocktail is inspired by traditional Vietnamese iced coffee. Creating this cocktail was a fun and nostalgic experience. It's definitely something I would order if I was day-drinking.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 oz. Belle Isle Premium Moonshine
    • 1 oz. Belle Isle Cold Brew Coffee
    • 3 oz. cold brew coffee
    • 1/2 oz. condensed milk
    • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters

    Preparation:

    Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a Collins glass filled with ice.

    Recipe by Lily of Green Pig Bistro

      Lily's notes: Our cold brew coffee recipe is 1 part local Swing's coffee grounds to 6 parts cold filtered water. The mixture is refrigerated overnight and strained the next day. After straining, I usually premix the condensed milk into the cold brew to allow the ingredients to blend better. If I am batching this cold-brew, I may use up to 4 cans of condensed milk.

      Photos by Kate Magee

      Behind the Bar: Lyndsay Blair // Scotty Quixx

      Behind the BarBrandon Day

      If you talk to anyone who’s been bartending long enough, you’re bound to hear some serious insight into the human psyche. If there’s one truth you discover behind the bar, it’s that we are all creatures of habit. Rather than fight our true nature, sometimes it’s better to embrace it.

      That’s why when you walk into Scotty Quixx, your usual drink is waiting for you on the bar. When you sit down, you’ll see the same groups of friends hanging out, regulars bunny-hopping each other on the jukebox and laughing, and the manager Lyndsay Blair sneaking Harry Potter on a TV somewhere. We made the trip down to Lyndsay’s bar to hear more about the rituals of Scotty Quixx that make this beach bar both a destination and a pit stop for folks from all walks of life.

      Tell us about yourself.

      I’m the manager of Scotty Quixx off Birdneck Road. This location has been open for about four years, and our original location on Virginia Beach Boulevard has been open for seven years.

      How did you get into bartending?

      I started out in the restaurant business when I was sixteen as a hostess and busser. Over the years as I was finishing school, I moved to serving tables, then to bartending, then into management. I’ve been bartending off and on for nine years. Honestly, the money is what attracted me to being behind the bar and is what kept me coming back.

      Any hobbies / side gigs / secret identities? 

      When I’m not working, I’m at home hanging out with my animals. Puppies are my hobby. Well, also cats, bunnies, squirrels and birds. I got a backyard full. I also love to watch the History Channel: Ms. Marple and Murder, She Wrote, because I’m secretly 70 years old.

      Favorite drink to make:

      Shooters, or fancy craft cocktails when I can. We don’t get to do that a lot at Scotty Quixx, so on the rare occasion someone wants something special, it is enjoyable to make. I have also been told I make a mean Lemon Drop.

      Favorite drink to sip:

      Diet Coke.

      Favorite “guilty pleasure” drink:

      Diet Coke. Seriously. I’m a fiend for it. As far as booze goes, my taste buds have changed over the years. Never thought I’d grow away from the light beer and shots. But when I do indulge in an adult beverage these days, it’s been a mule, wheat beer, or glass of wine. 

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      What's the vibe at Scotty Quixx?

      Scotty Quixx is a super laid-back and friendly neighborhood bar. We are both a destination and pit stop. It’s a place you can stop at on the way home from work, on the way out for the night, the last stop before going home after a night out, or just because you don’t want to sit at home. We have a lot of people call or text us that they’re bored and are coming up to sit and hang out. We’ve been dubbed the living room, decompression tank, etc. 

      Who typically comes in?

      We have a really good mix of all ages and types of people. We have families, construction workers, business professionals, etc. We have just as many people over the age of 50 sitting at the bar joking on us, as we do under the age of 30. Everyone fits in. Everyone gets along. And everyone makes friends.

      What makes your bar unique?

      The copious amounts of M&Ms, candy, and snacks that we offer to everyone. Probably the only place you’ll hear a customer jokingly order lasagna and Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, and they get a Miller Light draft and a handful of M&Ms instead. Every day I have someone bringing me M&Ms, whether it’s to be nice or to keep me happy when I’m getting my butt kicked during football Sundays.

      I also think we're much different from other bars in the area. Besides the ridiculous amount of candy on the bar that I mentioned, we really connect with the folks that come in here. We will learn your name and drink quickly, and we will remember your puppy’s name and kid’s name. We care about our customers because they really are our friends. Not just our front of the house staff either. Our kitchen manager and cooks are always coming out to say hi or hang out if they have a second.

      What makes for a "perfect bartender"?

      Having the ability to read people makes for a great bartender. Anyone can follow a recipe or learn how to make drinks, but it’s knowing what people need, want, or expect that sets you apart. Do they need a laugh, do they need to vent, do they need to be left alone to work or think? Do they need more ranch dressing? Or the answer to the trivia question just asked? I love anticipating what people need or want, whether it’s a drink, service, or personal interaction. I always say it’s what I would want if I were sitting there.

      How has the bar scene here changed?

      With the huge growth of interest in craft beers, bourbons and whiskey, we see a lot more classic cocktails being ordered now, when years ago it was all Jäger bombs and Bud Light. We have a lot more Old Fashioned's, vodka martinis and Manhattans ordered these days. I'm a big fan of the change. Bartending is definitely coming full circle and returning to its roots as an art form. Makes you want to brush up on the history and basics, and learn what’s new. 

      Can you share a Belle Isle cocktail with us?

      I'm a big fan of mules, so when one of our liquor reps introduced me to Belle Isle Honey Habanero, I absolutely fell in love with it and knew exactly what I wanted to do with it. Now I search bar shelves for Belle Isle whenever I’m out. This is definitely my new favorite drink to push at the bar whenever someone is unsure of what to drink.

      As for the name, it was actually inspired by a couple of regulars. Over time, we’ve been given tons of nicknames: Squixx, Sqx Jr., etc. One day a group of guys, headed by our good friends Josh and Jason, decided to come up with a nickname for the opposite of Scotty Quixx. Not sure if it was for fun or if they needed a secret codeword - not sure I want to know, either. Naturally, the opposite of Scotty Quixx came to be Tommy Long Times. Made perfect sense. 

      Ingredients:

      • 1 ½ oz. Belle Isle Honey Habanero
      • 6 oz. ginger beer
      • 1/6 oz. fresh lime juice
      • 1 lime wedge for garnish

      Preparation:

      Fill copper mule mug with ice. Pour in Belle Isle Honey Habanero, then top with ginger beer. Add fresh squeezed lime juice. Garnish with a lime wedge.